Faith and prayer must go together. He that believes, let his pray—I believe, therefore I have spoken: and he that prays, let him believe, for the prayer of faith is the prevailing prayer. We have both here.
I. David, in distress, is very earnest with God in prayer for succour and relief. This eases a burdened spirit, fetches in promised mercies, and wonderfully supports and comforts the soul in the expectation of them. He prays, 1. That God would deliver him (Ps. 31:1), that his life might be preserved from the malice of his enemies, and that an end might be put to their persecutions of him, that God, not only in his mercy, but in righteousness, would deliver him, as a righteous Judge betwixt him and his unrighteous persecutors, that he would bow down his ear to his petitions, to his appeals, and deliver him, Ps. 31:2. It is condescension in God to take cognizance of the case of the greatest and best of men; he humbles himself to do it. The psalmist prays also that he would deliver him speedily, lest, if the deliverance were long deferred, his faith should fail. 2. That if he did not immediately deliver him out of his troubles, yet he would protect and shelter him in his troubles; “Be thou my strong rock, immovable, impregnable, as a fastness framed by nature, and my house of defence, a fortress framed by art, and all to save me.” Thus we may pray that God’s providence would secure to us our lives and comforts, and that by his grace we may be enabled to think ourselves safe in him, Prov. 18:10. 3. That his case having much in it of difficulty, both in respect of duty and in respect of prudence, he might be under the divine guidance: “Lord, lead me and guide me (Ps. 31:3), so order my steps, so order my spirit, that I may never do any thing unlawful and unjustifiable—against my conscience, nor unwise and indiscreet—against my interest.” Those that resolve to follow God’s direction may in faith pray for it. 4. That his enemies being very crafty, as well as very spiteful, God would frustrate and baffle their designs against him (Ps. 31:4): “Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me, and keep me from the sin, the trouble, the death, they aim to entrap me in.”
II. In this prayer he gives glory to God by a repeated profession of his confidence in him and dependence on him. This encouraged his prayers and qualified him for the mercies he prayed for (Ps. 31:1): “In thee, O Lord! do I put my trust, and not in myself, or any sufficiency of my own, or in any creature; let me never be ashamed, let me not be disappointed of any of that good which thou hast promised me and which therefore I have promised myself in thee.” 1. He had chosen God for his protector, and God had, by his promise, undertaken to be so (Ps. 31:3): “Thou art my rock and my fortress, by thy covenant with me and my believing consent to that covenant; therefore be my strong rock,” Ps. 31:2. Those that have in sincerity avouched the Lord for theirs may expect the benefit of his being so; for God’s relations to us carry with them both name and thing. Thou art my strength, Ps. 31:4. If God be our strength, we may hope that he will both put his strength in us and put forth his strength for us. 2. He gave up his soul in a special manner to him (Ps. 31:5): Into thy hands I commit my spirit. (1.) If David here looks upon himself as a dying man, by these words he resigns his departing soul to God who gave it, and to whom, at death, the spirit returns. “Men can but kill the body, but I trust in God to redeem my soul from the power of the grave,” Ps. 49:15. He is willing to die if God will have it so; but let my soul fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercies are great. With these words our Lord Jesus yielded up the ghost upon the cross, and made his soul an offering, a free-will offering for sin, voluntarily laying down his life a ransom. By Stephen’s example we are taught in, our dying moment, to eye Christ at God’s right hand, and to commit our spirits to him: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. But, 2. David is here to be looked upon as a man in distress and trouble. And, [1.] His great care is about his soul, his spirit, his better part. Note, Our outward afflictions should increase our concern for our souls. Many think that while they are perplexed about their worldly affairs, and Providence multiplies their cares about them, they may be excused if they neglect their souls; whereas the greater hazard our lives and secular interests lie at the more we are concerned to look to our souls, that, though the outward man perish, the inward man may suffer no damage (2 Cor. 4:16), and that we may keep possession of our souls when we can keep possession of nothing else, Luke 21:19. [2.] He thinks the best he can do for the soul is to commit it into the hand of God, and lodge that great trust with him. He had prayed (Ps. 31:4) to be plucked out of the net of outward trouble, but, as not insisting upon that (God’s will be done), he immediately lets fall that petition, and commits the spirit, the inward man, into God’s hand. “Lord, however it goes with me, as to my body, let it go well with my soul.” Note, It is the wisdom and duty of every one of us solemnly to commit our spirits into the hands of God, to be sanctified by his grace, devoted to his honour, employed in his service, and fitted for his kingdom. That which encourages us to commit our spirits into the hand of God is that he has not only created, but redeemed, them; the particular redemptions of the Old-Testament church and the Old-Testament saints were typical of our redemption by Jesus Christ, Gen. 48:16. The redemption of the soul is so precious that it must have ceased for ever if Christ had not undertaken it; but, by redeeming our souls, he has not only acquired an additional right and title to them, which obliges us to commit them to him as his own, but has shown the extraordinary kindness and concern he has for them, which encourages us to commit them to him, to be preserved to his heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 1:12): “Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth! redeem me according to a promise which thou wilt be true to.”
III. He disclaimed all confederacy with those that made an arm of flesh their confidence (Ps. 31:6): I have hated those that regard lying vanities—idolaters (to some), who expect aid from false gods, which are vanity and a lie—astrologers, and those that give heed to them, so others. David abhorred the use of enchantments and divinations; he consulted not, nor even took notice of, the flight of birds or entrails of beasts, good omens or bad omens; they are lying vanities, and he not only did not regard them himself, but hated the wickedness of those that did. He trusted in God only, and not in any creature. His interest in the court or country, his retreats or strongholds, even Goliath’s sword itself—these were lying vanities, which he could not depend upon, but trusted in the Lord only. See Ps. 40:4; Jer. 17:5.
IV. He comforted himself with his hope in God, and made himself, not only easy, but cheerful, with it, Ps. 31:7. Having relied on God’s mercy, he will be glad and rejoice in it; and those know not how to value their hope in God who cannot find joy enough in that hope to counterbalance their grievances and silence their griefs.
V. He encouraged himself in this hope with the experiences he had had of late, and formerly, of God’s goodness to him, which he mentions to the glory of God; he that has delivered doth and will. 1. God had taken notice of his afflictions and all the circumstances of them: “Thou hast considered my trouble, with wisdom to suit relief to it, with condescension and compassion regarding the low estate of they servant.” 2. He had observed the temper of his spirit and the workings of his heart under his afflictions: “Thou hast known my soul in adversities, with a tender concern and care for it.” God’s eye is upon our souls when we are in trouble, to see whether they be humbled for sin, submissive to the will of God, and bettered by the affliction. If the soul, when cast down under affliction, has been lifted up to him in true devotion, he knows it. 3. He had rescued him out of the hands of Saul when he had him safe enough in Keilah (1 Sam. 23:7): “Thou hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy, but set me at liberty, in a large room, where I may shift for my own safety,” Ps. 31:8. Christ’s using those words (Ps. 31:5) upon the cross may warrant us to apply all this to Christ, who trusted in his Father and was supported and delivered by him, and (because he humbled himself) highly exalted, which it is proper to think of when we sing Ps. 31:1-8, as also therein to acknowledge the experience we have had of God’s gracious presence with us in our troubles and to encourage ourselves to trust in him for the future.